Interview with Statix / PL

If you don't know who Statix is I suggest you browse
to "Best Demos" and download Juice by Psychic Link,
Statix coded that demo, and that was early in his
PC coding times. He is currently working full-time
for Lionhead with among others old Bullfrog lead
Peter Molyneux. He is now in a new demo group, and
also does great success as a designer in his spare time.
So, here ya got it, interview with the wizkid, Alex Evans.

statixp.jpg (24672 bytes)

Alex Evans aka. Statix / PL

[biXen] :
Hi Statix, I think we will start with your name,nationality, age,
and which groups you have been in.

[Statix] :
Hi, I'm Alex Evans, born March 1978 (so I'm 21 now), I'm Australian
though I've lived in England most of my life. I've been in ... kiddies
play group, no, ehm, Psychic Link to start with, then Acme, Pulse.
But I like to work more like a freelancer. Also I've joined a new
group with Echo and Unreal and some other guys...


[biXen] :
Could you tell us a bit about how and when you started to code?

[Statix] :
I started on an old ZX Spectrum, making games in basic! In about
1991 I got a PC, and coded some more in Basic,then Pascal. In 93
I saw some demos on an Atari ST, and was desperate to make
a tracker for the PC so I could write music. By that time I was
using 100% Assembler... so I made a tracker, and then later,
a demo. We were still learning, and I was still mostly
interested in making trackers.In 1994 I got a job at Bullfrog
and had to learn C pretty fast. I also worked out texture-
mapping at that time. After Juice did well at Assembly 95 I
was completely hooked on demo coding...

[biXen] :
When did you first see a demo ? And did it do anything to you
at once ?

[Statix] :
Yes, like I said, it was my friend S-Cubed who had bought an
Atari ST with loads of mods, a tracker, and some demos.
It was the music that really got me - I'd always wanted to
make my own music and compared to the PC speaker, it
was amazing! So I went to the school electronics lab, and
built myself a little soundcard. Then I made a tracker
and player for it... the rest is history. When I saw "Panic"
on the PC, that was when I realised that it might be fun
to mix graphics with the sound...

[biXen] :
What do you do to keep up with the technology in your
coding ?

[Statix] :
I've always learnt new stuff by watching demos REALLY
closely, and then letting my brain extend the ideas and
come up with new ones. That's the way it's got to work
isn't it ? If your creative you can always improve on
what you see, rather than just copy it... and so, new
things grow from old. Working at Bullfrog and later
Lionhead helped too, because the atmosphere is very
good for creative stuff, it's inspiring, and your
surrounded by clever people who can suggest and
criticise ideas...

[biXen] :
How and when did you form Psychic Link ?

[Statix] :
Psychic Link was formed by S-Cubed and me, after we
saw Panic. I had already made the tracker and player
we needed for the demo.  Now all we needed was a
musician to use my new tracker - and another friend,
Skywalker (now a DJ) was in a one man group called
"Psychic Link". So we joined, and worked hard to
produce act1, back in summer '94. We hadn't seen many
demos, but we were full of ideas. We were going to call
it "Orange" originally, but then by chance we saw
orange greeted in an intro just before release....
Damn! , so Act1 it was...

stx-blm1.jpg (16850 bytes)

Screenshot from "Bleam" by Statix

[biXen] :
What do you think is the biggest differences between the
scene when you joined it and how it is today ?

[Statix] :
Back then it was less international, being in a group
meant more because it was probably a friend who
could easily work together. People complain about the
scene being unfriendly to starters now... well it was
then too!  Before we showed Juice at the bigscreen
at Assembly '95, absolutely nobody (except Symptom,
thanx guys) would talk to us!  These days, internet
allows cooperation, which really suits me (e.g. my
work with Vic) but it sometimes amazes me that so
many beginners expect old-timers to hold their hand
through the internet.  We survived without !!!!

Don't get me wrong - helping people is brilliant - but to
EXPECT it from other people who probably don't have
much time seems strange. The scene now is also spread
so wide, with so many groups and productions, it's lost
some of it's original atmosphere that came from it's
relatively small size. Who knows what will come out...
I think it is in a low patch right now, but that's not to
say that there aren't some great productions being
made. It's just that a lot more crap get's
released now....

[biXen] :
Did you have any idols when you started out, and if so
do you still have any ?

[Statix] :
Of course, Future Crew were the best distributed,
and my first demo inspiration. Once I had got going,
I really respected some of the finnish guys - especially
Hoplite and Dune, and the Halcyon guys - croaker blitz
and Placidity was it who made  "Into Dark?", really
great demo... must be great people ! Now I know a few
more people and my respect continues for them...
Also Unreal is a great guy to be with - infectious
energy ! - and echo produces some great stuff too.
Loads of people in fact.... eh... I really don't "idolise"
anyone in particular but when I see a great demo,
picture or tune or party, I always get a feeling of
awe for the creator(s)... and of course Vic and the
Acme guys, who are great fun to work with, but
you know about that...

[biXen] :
What is it that takes your time nowadays then ?

[Statix] :
In the last year I was finishing my studies, and since then I
have been partying! So PC's and demos have been taking
2nd or 3rd or 4th place to other things...  I'm now working
full-time at Lionhead working on games, and it's a big
commitment. I still have my head full of demo-type ideas,
so someday it will overflow and  I'll find time to make
something, but I don't know yet! In fact, I don't know
where I will be living after next week, or if I'll go to the
USA next year, or what.... so I'll let you know. Of course
I always watch the demoscene  from the corner
of my eye....

stx-blm2.jpg (17759 bytes)

Screenshot from "Bleam" by Statix

[biXen] :
How did you get your job in Bullfrog (now Lionhead) ?

[Statix] :
I had a bet with a friend! We were playing Syndicate,
and he bet me  I couldn't get a job there. So I phoned up
the number in the Syndicate book and asked for the
address - then I wrote a letter asking for a summer
programming job (since I was at high school then). I
didn't expect a reply, but Peter Molyneux asked me
to come for an interview. At first they laughed at me
for being so young, but then I showed them my tracker
and Act1, and on the basis of that, they gave it to me!

I couldn't believe it. I was very lucky cause by chance,
I had chosen the exact time that Bullfrog was expanding
massively from 20 people (as it was then) to 200 people
(as it is now, I think). I've always had a good friendship
with Peter, and I kept coming back. When Lionhead
started, with a core of really talented guys, who I all
knew, I was really happy to be asked to join.

[biXen] :
How is it to work with legends like Peter Molyneux ?

[Statix] :
Very inspiring - Peter is one of the most talented and
creative people I know, and he has a great ability to
find great people to work with him, and create a
friendly atmosphere. Lionhead is completely his baby:
and it's simply an amazing place to work, the
the atmosphere is inspiringly creative.  It's only a
few people and we're all good friends, which helps
a lot. Last year I took a week off work to make
"Bleam", and Vic came to stay to work on it.

We almost lived in the office, working 24 hours! 
Some of the Lionhead guys helped out, and we all got
together, pissed around, got stoned (well some of
us:)) and made a demo. Vic couldn't believe how
cool it was to work there... and of course Peter
was 200% supportive in his usual over-
generous way.

[biXen] :
Does Psychic Link have any plans for further
cooperation ?

[Statix] :
Nick (Skywalker) and I are still close friends as we
went to university together, and he lives about 100m
from me in London... he's become a DJ now, and
doesn't follow the scene. But one day I might
persuade him to make me a tune! I've lost track
with S-Cubed, who I think became tired or annoyed
with the scene several years ago... but who knows
what may happen....

stx-sqr2.jpg (17094 bytes)
Screenshot from "Square" by Statix / Pulse

[biXen] :
Do you ever regret your time spent in the scene?

[Statix] :
NEVER!!!

[biXen] :
Do you still watch what happens in the scene ?

[Statix] :
That's one of the best things about the proliferation
of the Internet. I keep my eye on www.scene.org and
friends... It really depends on how much time I have
to spare, but I always keep it in the back of my mind.

[biXen] :
How long does your part of a demo usually take, and
what tools do you use to do it ?

[Statix] :
I am a control freak !!! When I make a demo, I have to
make it completely, and make the code - because for
my style of demo making , a lot of the visual style of an
effect is inside the code. It's for that reason that I never
use a standard 3D engine, and never re-use much code
between projects. So I make no distinction between
design and code, and little distinction between code-
design and art....

Normally I'll play around with new technologies
or new techniques, just working on the occasional
free evening, for a month or two. Then a  week of
intense coding of ideas, working with the musician
(Vic!)  and any other people to think of a  form
for the design of the demo. Sometimes that's all
the time I get, but if possible I spend a final few
days to blend all the ideas together.

stx-sqr3.jpg (27036 bytes)
Screenshot from "Square" by Statix / Pulse

That last bit is normally done at the partyplace,
or certainly when all the people involved in the
demo are in the same room. For tools - pretty normal
stuff! An assembler, a C compiler (these days,
Visual C)  Lots of home made tools for compression
and video stuff etc. also Photoshop and Deluxe
Paint 2.... all the standard  stuff. For music, I leave it
to Vic!... though whenever  I make music (my first
love!) I always use  "homemade" trackers.

[biXen] :
In your opinion, should demomakers use all the latest
"tools" like 3DFX and mp3's or stick to only regular
DirectX and .xm (mods) ?

[Statix] :
It really depends on what you want to produce, I don't
think there should be hard rules on it. Mp3s are fine,
if you can justify the quality improvement. If your just
mp3ing an .xm file, that seems silly to me. Also 30 meg
demos piss me off !!!  As for 3DFX, if they can use it well,
then cool ! I only judge the visual result, not the
technique so much.

The problem is for 3DFX, so many people can produce
boring quake style  3D flythroughs, and that is VERY
dull. The problems on 3DFX is are not less than with
normal Directx just very different. For example with
"Bleam" I was experimenting, trying to make a 3DFX
demo that had a different feeling to all the other
3DFX stuff of the time. Whether the result was
any good is another question, but it was certainly
unique...

[biXen] :
Do you have any hobbies ?

[Statix] :
I love travelling, especially New York. If I could go there
reguleraly I would! Also swimming when I'm feeling fat...
I've always been a classical musician, so that's another
form of relaxation. Finally, in the last few years I've
really got into some graphical design work, making
posters and flyers for local theaters and clubs.
These are on my website... (www.bluespoon.com)

stx-sqr4.jpg (17917 bytes)

Screenshot from "Square" by Statix / Pulse

[biXen] :
Name the things you would do to have the best day
of your life :

[Statix] :
Oh shit!!! Impossible question. What would I like most to
do today, just at this minute ? That's a bit easier. Teleport
to New York with some friends. Piss around there, maybe
go to a club. Then go jetskiing somewhere. Maybe play
live at some club with some DJ / musician friends.
Go to a cafe/restaurant with some friends.... and wind
up the evening with my girlfriend. Will that do ?

Alternative:
Sleep till 2pm. Get up. Have lunch. Watch TV. Have a good
shag with a gorgeous woman (no names now...)  Go out
for the evening with some mates. Go clubbing in London.
Come back, and wind up the evening with my girlfriend,
that wouldn't be bad either!

[biXen] :
Do you have any advice for sceners that wants to be
just as good as you ?

[Statix] :
Be as good as me ? Ha! That's not hard really. Just
waste half your life in front of a PC! Also, study what
you see on the screen in other demos, and as well
as trying to reproduce it, see what ideas it conjures
up in your head.... Just have good time too!  The whole
spirit in the scene is embodied in parties, where
everyone gets together to socialize and have
a laugh.

[biXen] :
Okay, finally, do you have any last words or greets
you want to say ?

[Statix] :
Hi to the amazing French scene, all those people are
simply great people. Bah, I can't be bothered to type
anymore! Oh, and greets to Mellow-D because
somehow he didn't get mentioned, but needless
to say he's a total dude.

stx-sqr5.jpg (27980 bytes)

Screenshot from "Square" by Statix / Pulse

[biXen] :
Well, thanks a lot to you   Statix, hope to see more
of your stuff in the scene in the time to come.

[Statix] :
Cheers. Hope so too. And keep up the good work
ye scene !!!